Belgrade is undoubtedly the number one spot in Serbia. It is the capital, the biggest city, the centre of everything that happens in the country and a lot more. It also happens to be more than a little exhausting, and escaping the chaos for a day is often the best kind of medicine. Luckily for one and all, there’s a whole heap of excellent spots just an hour or two away from the capital. If you’re looking for nature, history, food and the rest, you are in the right place.
Some might scoff at the idea of a somewhat industrial city being singled out as an amazing day trip from the capital, but don’t you dare think about selling Kragujevac short. The fourth biggest city in the country and less than a two-hour drive from Belgrade, Kragujevac was actually the first modern capital of Serbia and is home to the nation’s grammar school and print works.
The city is also home to a huge spomenik (monument) park, built in remembrance of local citizens massacred by the Nazis during World War II. The park has many monuments hidden within, with the iconic ‘Interrupted Flight’ no doubt the most famous. The city itself is an energetic and exciting spot but the park is the dictionary definition of sombre.
Serbia’s second city, Novi Sad, carries itself like a capital in its own right. Located just over an hour north of Belgrade, the Vojvodinian capital is known for its annual EXIT Festival but offers a whole lot more than drunk backpackers dancing to The Prodigy. The fortress at Petrovaradin might be the city’s main event, but be sure to leave plenty of time for the city centre itself.
That city centre is an enchanting mixture of classic Serbian and Hungarian architecture, clearly identifying Novi Sad as a city with a fractured history. The restaurants, cafes and bars are up to Serbian standards too, and dom b-612 is one of the finest cultural centres in the country.
Despite being incorrectly and insultingly described as ‘Abandoned Soviet Monuments from the Future Past’ by Buzzfeed, the spomeniks that dot the landscape of what was once Yugoslavia are more than worth exploring further. Some are in pristine condition where others are completely destroyed, but all have a place in the grand tale of Yugoslavia.
Just an hour south of the capital is the Kosmaj monument – a huge concrete structure honouring those from the area who died in the National Liberation Struggle of World War II. Five huge concrete fins combine to create a star, approached by a grand staircase from the road below. The monument has been somewhat neglected in previous years but it is still an awesome sight to behold.
Suffice it to say, this is one of our favourites. Sremski Karlovci is an absolute delight of a village situated close to Novi Sad and just an hour or so north of the Serbian capital. It isn’t a huge place (it is a village after all), but every single street is worth strolling down and checking out.
Vojvodina may well be the prettiest part of Serbia, and it takes something special to be the prettiest part of that most beautiful region. Sremski Karlovci takes home that particular biscuit in its position as the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Monarchy affording it several privileges throughout history. If you only visit one town outside of Belgrade, make it Sremski Karlovci.
Situated right on the border between Serbia and its neighbour Romania, Golubac Fortress is one of the most impressive sights in the entire nation. A 14th century construction, Golubac has experienced plenty of ups and downs in the seven centuries since then – passing through the hands of Turks Hungarians, Serbs, Austrians and others before finally staying with the Serbs in the late 19th century.
The fortress has seen better days in terms of its current stability but then who wants to see a perfectly preserved complex from 600 or more years ago? History is supposed to crumble, and Golubac has retained just enough of its shape to give an idea of how immense it may once have been. It is also an excellent spot on any respected tour of the Danube, second only to the Volga when it comes to rivers in Europe.
A swamp might not exactly sound like the most inviting spot for a day trip away from the Serbian capital, but anyone harbouring such a mindset is only going to be missing out on what is a veritable treasure trove of nature. There are over 200 different species of bird at Obedska Pond alone, to go with over 50 types of mammal and a host of amphibians and reptiles.
More importantly, Obedska Pond is one of the oldest nature reserves on the planet, with protected status being afforded to it in 1874. Despite the abundance of life that thrives there, Obedska is every bit as tranquil as Belgrade is chaotic, making it the perfect getaway for anyone looking to sit in silence for a little while.
While we don’t want to go out and state the completely obvious, if you visit Serbia without visiting Fruška Gora then you’ve barely visited Serbia at all. Fruška Gora itself is a mountain but the entire area around the hill is a national park that is an absolute delight at every single turn.
The region is full of forests and countryside, but it may well be the monasteries that dot that nature that demand the most attention. Over a dozen houses of tranquility are found here and the mosaics at Krušedol are worth making an effort to find all on their own. When you add them to the great wine, delectable cuisine, and absolute calm of the nature, Fruška Gora is a must-visit.